Short Take Reviews: The Newlyweds, Rogue Wave, Hunker Down with the McKallisters (Cake series #4 - #5.5) by J. Bengtsson

 


THE NEWLYWEDS

J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #4
Published: February 25, 2018
Source: Audible
4.5 stars

Fate doesn’t own Jake McKallister. At least, that’s what he tells himself. Life is better than ever. He’s at the top of his game, performing to sold-out crowds the world over. He has his health and a solid, fun-loving family to keep him grounded.

And he got the girl - the beautiful, quirky girl he’s just made his wife.

Yes, life is good. If only fate would stop screaming in his ear.

Lucky is the best word for Casey McKallister. She has an awesome support system, a nerd’s dream job at a prestigious accounting firm, and best of all, she’s married to the hottest rock star to ever roam the earth.

Yes, life is perfect… until it all comes crashing down around her.

They say love conquers all. That’s what Jake and Casey are counting on. 


*****
Getting to revisit a favorite fictional couple is like a gift direct to me from the author. Sure, there’s always the chance that things will go terribly wrong, you no longer recognize these people that you once loved so dearly, but I trusted Bengtsson to do right by Casey and Jake. And that trust was rewarded with this little fantastic follow-up.

I wasn’t too far into The Newlyweds when I felt like I had a good idea of the direction it was going to take. (And, confession time, I wasn’t overly jazzed about it.) But I should have known Bengtsson wouldn't go the typical, expected route, because I wasn't surprised when the story veered left and delivered a plot twist that I never saw coming. Jake and Casey found themselves in an unexpected position and dealt with their new situation the same way they’d dealt with other challenges: together. I adore this couple and the entire McKallister clan. And the audio version, again narrated by Andi Arndt and Joe Arden, was perfection. 
J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #5
Published: March 19, 2019
Source: Audible
4 stars

A love story that survives the test of time.

Keith McKallister is the king of the stoners. You know the type. Every school has one – the hot, fun, dopey guy beloved by the student body but despised by, well, just about everyone else. He spends his early mornings in the ocean and his days trying to get to class on time. Life is as easy as it gets until one poor choice too many catches up with him and he’s forced to reevaluate his path.

Samantha Anderson sits in the front row. You know the type. Every school has one – the quiet, faceless, studious girl who fears the taunts of her peers and fades into the background. Life has never been simple for Samantha, and it’s about to get a little more complicated when Keith slides into the seat beside her with a partnership plan designed for his benefit only. But what Keith brings to the table is more than either of them could imagine.

Sometimes the person you least expect to make a difference will change your life forever. Sometimes the person you love the most might be better off without you.


*****

As much as I enjoyed more of the McKallister family’s stories, I had a couple issues with this entry that kept me from loving it quite as much as the others. For one, a big chunk of it took place during Sam and Keith’s high school years and, while I understood that was necessary to show the beginning of Keith’s issues with addition, I found myself wishing for more adult Keith + Sam instead of school-age Keith + Sam. There were times I wanted to shake Keith senseless – more like shake some sense into him – for consistently checking out on his family when they needed him most, and turning to the escape of drugs.

That being said, there was a lot more that I loved about Rogue Wave than the few things that left me wanting. We see Jake’s abduction from yet another point of view and gain even more understanding of how it shook the entire family. The special relationships between all the siblings continues to be a real highlight for me. The dialogue and the humor are always spot-on (Bengtsson is so gifted with both!) and make these characters really come to life.

J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #5.5
Published: October 14,2020
Source: Audible
4.25 stars

For fans of the Cake series by J. Bengtsson comes a funny, heartwarming companion novella featuring the Cake characters in lockdown.

Just like the rest of the world, the McKallisters find themselves struggling to conform to a new way of life after the virus confines them to their homes. These connected short stories give fans a chance to catch up on all of their favorite Cake characters as well as enjoy a bonus epilogue and interviews with the characters.

Find out how Jake and Kyle cope with isolation—and each other—after they enter quarantine following exposure to the virus. Follow Finn and Emma as they desperately try to prevent a super spreader event at Perryland—while attempting to ration the toilet paper. And go on a humorous journey with Quinn as he searches for a place to stay after initially refusing to lock down with the others. 


*****

This companion novella to the Cake series was such a little gem. At only 124 pages (just over 2 hours on audio) it went by in a flash, but I loved the glimpse into how the (growing!) McKallister clan was handling lockdown. Bengtsson did an amazing job capturing the fears and uncertainties of life during a pandemic, but also injected it with her signature humor and heart. There were some laugh out loud moments – like Casey trying to wrangle three small children at home, with the youngest ending up in the litter box – and some that hit me right in the feels. The bonus content at the end included interviews with all the characters and was the perfect cherry on top.


HAVE YOU READ THE CAKE SERIES?

10 comments

  1. Ow I can't wait to catch up on this series. I read the first book and loved it!! I've definitely planned on reading the other books in the series as well.
    I'm glad to read these books are good as well.

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    1. I hope you'll love the rest of the series, Maureen!

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  2. I had no idea there was a Hunker Down! I should read that one! I didn't love the 5th book because of all the high school stuff, too. I wanted more current situation stuff. Great reviews! I'm glad we both loved the series. Thanks for nudging me in its direction.

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    1. I'm so glad we both loved the series so much! And the Hunker Down novella was so fun. I used a credit on Audible but maybe Hoopla would have it, too.

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  3. It really is a treat to catch up with my favorite couples. This was a really strong series for you. I can't believe they added a pandemic novella. I have yet to read anything involving the pandemic. Not sure how I feel at the moment about it though.

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    1. The novella touched on a few emotional moments but overall was really light and upbeat.

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  4. I just picked up the first book in the Cake series based on your reviews so I'm excited to see that you're still enjoying the series this many books in. :)

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    1. I really hope you enjoy it, Suzanne! This series has become such a favorite.

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  5. I have the first book in the series downloaded so I have no excuses for not getting to it. Hopefully I will very soon!

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